International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Salsa Romesco

Salsa Romesco (Spanish pepper and nut sauce)

(Spanish, Catalan roasted pepper and nut sauce)

Image Creative Commons by jules

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Hailing from Tarragona in the northeast of Spain, romesco sauce gets its vermillion hue and smoky flavor from roasted red peppers. The peppers are pureed, boosted with tomatoes, thickened with ground nuts and enriched with extra virgin olive oil.

Romesco has a special place in late winter celebrations in Tarragona called calçotades." The calçotada is a special barbecue where massive quantities of the local spring onions known as calçotes are grilled, dipped in romesco and happily devoured.

Try romesco as a perfect accompaniment to fish or poultry, as a spread for bread, or as a dipping sauce for fresh or cooked vegetables.

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • Dried ancho or New Mexico pepper, soaked -- 1
  • Red bell peppers -- 2
  • Tomatoes, cut into quarters, seeds removed -- 2
  • Onion (optional), chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, roasted -- 4 to 6 cloves
  • Olive oil -- 2 tablespoons
  • Almonds, toasted -- 1/2 cup
  • Salt -- to taste
  • Pepper flakes or cayenne (optional) -- to taste
  • White bread (optional), torn into pieces -- 1 slice
  • Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (optional) -- 1/4 cup
  • Olive oil -- 1/3 cup

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and place them in a bowl. Pour over hot water to cover and set the peppers aside to soak.
  2. Place the bell peppers on a lightly oiled baking sheet and set in the oven to roast, turning occasionally, until the skin is blackened on all sides and the peppers are softened, about 20 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for a few minutes.
  3. Toss the tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread in a single layer on the same baking sheet. Place in the the oven and roast until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, around 10 to 15 minutes, tossing once or twice. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Drain the soaking peppers and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Remove the stems, seeds and blackened skins from the roasted bell peppers and rinse them lightly in cool water. Tear the peppers into pieces and add them to the food processor bowl as well, along with the roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic, the almonds, a big pinch of salt and the pepper flakes or cayenne.
  5. Process all the ingredients until the sauce is smooth but still has a little texture. Blend in the white bread if you would like to have a thicker sauce. Add the sherry or red wine vinegar to give your sauce more of a tart bite.
  6. With the food processor still running, slowly drizzle the olive in through the feed chute until it is fully incorporated.
  7. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and serve at room temperature.

Romesco Variations

  • Peppers: The traditional peppers for romesco in Spain are sweet red bell peppers and bitxo peppers, smoky dried capsicums with a spicy bite. Ancho or New Mexico chilies are a close match that are easily available in North America. You can eliminate the dried chilies if you like a milder sauce.
  • Nuts: Instead of almonds, use hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts or any combination that meets your fancy.

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